Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Haunted Halloween Hop - Part Three: Masquerade

The house was one of Savannah's finest examples of Southern living. Candles lit every square inch of the mantles and tables, reflecting deeply polished mahogany and Georgia marble to every corner. Laughter filled the hallways, as ladies in silk and taffeta gowns swished against handsome gentlemen wearing 18th Century worsted wool and military colors. Cinnamon and cloves scented the air, and a chamber ensemble played in the back yard.

Cassie and her friends had attended the Masquerade ever since college. The theme never changed, Oglethorpe's Savannah, but the cast of characters was constantly being updated to include the latest movers and shakers along the coast. The highlighted entertainment this year was a psychic who was guaranteed to help you make a connection with the other side.

This year Cassie felt watched, not in the usual sleazy drunk frat boy way that most of these events ended up, but as though someone watched over her shoulder, a chill breath on the back of her neck. More than once the scent of Bay Lime drifted through the air. With Mike and Wendy as her bodyguards, she steeled herself against the nerves inside and started looking for her mystery date.

Moving through the rooms and crowd, catching snippets of conversation here and there, none of which could be added together as clues to her admirer. While there were several handsome young men dressed in the Colonial blue uniform of the time period, British red dominated the night.

In an attempt to get a breath of fresh air, Cassie burst through a doorway into what she thought was the front porch but turned out to be the solarium. Only a few people occupied the space, but all seemed to drift away quickly once the three girls appeared.

Mike threw herself down on the chaise. "Well I've seen no one in Wedgwood Blue, whatever the hell that is. Can we go now? My feet are killing me. These moccasins have no support."

Wendy threw her arms around Cassie and hissed at her partner, "Stop it Michelle. I refuse to leave my dearest friend alone with an announced perv stalking her. Now stop being such a downer and go grab us drinks. We'll wait right here."

Complaining with every step, Mike left to find an available bar as Cassie drifted to one corner of the solarium to study a uniform on a mannequin. A card on the table announced it belong to a Prussian prince who had come to fight for the Colonists, only to die on Halloween on Bay Street as he searched for his wife, who was sick and housebound. His murder was never solved, and his widow, who survived the malaria which had consumed the area with a late burst of summer, had him buried in the cemetery, where she joined him some sixty years later.

"Isn't it tragic, that he would die so close to home? His poor wife, how she must have wept." Cassie's face was somber as she looked at the well-preserved artifacts. "Worse is that no one was ever caught."

Wendy shrugged. "I imagine that happened a lot more times than not back in those days. Without forensics and evidence such as we can collect today, you practically had to catch the person in the act to get an honest conviction. Listen, I've to pee like a racehorse. Tell Mike I'll be right back, OK?"

"Sure thing." Cassie watched Wendy leave then returned her attention to the uniform. There was a small portrait of the prince hanging beside the exhibit. "What an interesting picture. Hard to see what he truly looked like."

A small gust of wind blew through the closed room, raising goosebumps on her arms, and a prickling sensation started on her neck, as if someone were breathing onto her skin. Part of her wanted to run away, while the rest wanted to turn around and see if there really was anything to be afraid of.

Just when she'd worked up the courage to turn, a cultured French accent spoke directly into her ear.

"I'm much more handsome than my portrait. You however, look lovely in the gown I picked out Cassandra. Very much like your mother."

Cassie spun around quickly, only to gasp at the sight awaiting her.

A ghost. A real live ghost was standing in the solarium staring at her like he knew her.

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